PJ: A Deaf Pit Bull Dog’s Rescue Story

Some of you are familiar with PJ’s story. Here’s a recap, what’s happened since “the video,” & what’s about to happen. This post is painful to write…both physically & emotionally…but her story needs to be told. (BTW, it’s long…& most are less than fantastic iphone pics taken with adrenaline charged hands.)


In the early morning hours of June 28, 2011, I received some information about a dog & her 3 puppies that had been dumped on a remote dirt road in a county just outside of Houston. We arrived about 9:45am. The mama dog was guarding one of her puppies by the fence who lay dead just under the main gate which led to a tower where my friend worked. We spent about an hour trying to lure her closer with treats. She ate the treats but kept running back to her post by the puppy.

She found an open spot on the fence & got through it. I thought we lost her at that point, but she wanted to smell her baby. It was so heartbreaking.

Only one of the puppies survived. He was full of fleas & had a deformed paw.

County animal control wasn’t much help. They said if they came out & they caught her, that she would be taken to their shelter & homey don’t play that. The owner of the land called Ivan Smith, an inspector with the local police department, & he came right over to help us. From the other side of fence, he was able to get a rope around her neck & pull her through the hole back to safety. She was very scared. Here he is trying to get her in the crate so we could take her to the vet.

Ivan is also an animal rescuer. He built 3 hidden cameras himself on this land where dumping of heavy trash & animals are a huge problem. He grabbed the cameras & we watched the video in his truck. What we saw was totally horrifying.

He captured photos of the perpetrators’ truck, but the camera missed the men & the license plate. We’ve heard different stories & received a few leads since then, but the perps were never caught. These images are forever etched in my brain.

Ivan & I became good friends & we went on to rescue other dogs abandoned on the same road.


We named her PJ after my friend who alerted us that morning. Mange, heartworm+, & the trauma of being abandoned & then seeing her babies die had taken a toll. This pic was taken back at the studio after our visit to the vet.

We also realized at about Day 3 that PJ was deaf. So we started training her with hand signals as best we could.

After several days of decompressing in my studio, she started coming out of her shell. What a great personality! Everybody wanted to meet her. There was a whole album on facebook of her fans coming daily for visits & kisses.

She was so happy & we were working on getting her well enough to be ready for a new home.

Then one day a friend of mine was over playing with PJ. When the friend stepped closer to me to take a measurement for a project we were working on PJ bit her in the leg. That’s when things got complicated. For months we worked with different trainers & she did well with no further incidents, but then she developed a strange obsession with objects. It started with brooms & mops. She would stare at them then attack them. It was scary & I felt helpless. The general consensus was to put her to sleep. But I loved her & the thought of it made me totally sick inside.


The next day I received a call from a woman named Allie Keaton who is the founder of a non-profit organization called My Service Dog. We met the previous year when I was hired to take photos for an article in Houston Pet Talk Magazine. She needed some information & then we got to gabbing….turned out she was a photographer in her former life. Then the chat turned to PJ, as the situation was weighing heavily on my mind that day. Was hoping maybe she had some good sound advice because I felt like I was being forced to make a decision I didn’t want to make. (Here is Allie with her service dog Nick who actually trains the puppies to become service dogs).

After hearing PJ’s story, she told me on the phone, “I am committing to you & PJ right now. If it takes 2 weeks or if it takes 2 years.” (It almost took the latter). The next nite PJ & I headed out for a weekend in the country. Our luck was about to change.

Up until this point, I was very outspoken about using only positive based training methods. But desperate situations sometimes call for desperate measures. I had to agree to let Allie do it her way for this to work. Watching her wear a prong collar for the first time was hard, but Allie explained the reasoning & I actually tested it out on myself. It looks scarier than it actually is & simulates the mother dog correcting her pups with a firm nudge. When I found out 2 days later that PJ was walking around an obstacle course of 10 mops & brooms outside with no problems it made me very happy. She was quickly doing things I never thought were possible…& all around cattle, cats, & other dogs.

I visited them as often as I could in the months to come. Allie’s work with her day after day, month after month was all in the name of love & rehabilitation. Miss Thang is super intuitive & was able to figure out what would work best for PJ. Eventually she learned to relax & just be a dog, without the weight of the world on her shoulders. She felt safe. And Allie became our angel.


Sure, I was hoping that she could stay with Allie forever. She loves it there & they both adore each other. But it takes a lot of time away to place service dogs with their humans, so we both thought it best to make this change.

I just lost Beau. My hands are filled with pain. I’m behind on my work. I could go on & on. It’s just never a good time for these kind of changes, is it?

My good friend Michael is building a temperature controlled indoor/outdoor kennel on my property. PJ will have her own space once again, but it will be apart from my other dogs. This will be a one day at a time deal. PJ is amazing. So, we never know what tomorrow will bring.

Yes. I’m tooting my own horn. I practice what I preach. PJ’s life is worth fighting for just as any other life on this planet. It’s taken a lot out of me & Allie & many other people. There have been sacrifices, tears, anger. But we keep fighting. When one thing doesn’t work, we try another. The commitment to her was made the day I rushed to that dirt road like a bat outta hell. I look forward to sharing new chapters with you soon…

NOTE:  My Service Dog is currently in need of some assistance to finish their schoolhouse. It would mean the world to me if we could get their building up & running so Allie can continue her amazing work for so many in need. Please feel free to make a donation in PJ’s name or in the name of your loved rescue dog. Here is the direct link:  http://myservicedog.com/donations.html Thanku. XO

Bringing you these dog stories takes precious time and resources. It's important to me, and I'll do it no matter what. But your small donation — even $1 or $2 — goes a long way toward helping me maintain my website and continue to invest my time and energy into helping give voice to these animals who so desperately need one.

robyn arouty